You’ve seen the craze: Fidget Spinners. These little twirly devices have captured the hands and pockets ($) of many. They are engaging and for many a fun toy, but fidgeting is not just for fun nor always annoying. It can be highly therapeutic. Wiggling those fingers can be a great asset for some. It is to the fingers much like exercise is to the body and can really provide a terrific sensory filter to de-stress or to attend and focus. Yet fidgeting is not always a great idea and when it comes to the classroom, a fidget used the wrong way can be disruptive. So how do you know when it’s a good idea to allow students to fidget and what type of fidgets to use?
In general, the following tips will help you select a classroom appropriate fidget. Whether you are a parent selecting or a teacher providing/allowing fidgeting, keep the following in mind:
- Is it safe?
- Is it distracting?
- Is it sanitary?
- Is it necessary?
The answers to those questions should be Yes. No. Yes. Yes. In other words, yes it should be safe. Stay away from fidgets that can be flung across the room or can injure anyone or be swallowed. Most fidgeters also tend to put things in their mouths so keep that in mind when making your sections. It should also not be distracting, not to others in the classroom and not the fidgeter themselves. The idea of a fidget is to act as a sensory filter and not to provide a distraction to learning. If the eyes must be involved than it may be better used before or after learning. And it should be sanitary, that is easy to clean. Last, is it necessary? For a child with sensory processing issues or on the autism spectrum, the answer might be yes. Parents, teachers, therapists and the individual involved should work together to come up with the best solution and time for use.
Let’s take a look at the best classroom fidgets that are safe, distraction-free and sanitary.
Ball fidgets like the Yuk-E-Ball makes a great classroom fidget. The balls inside can be quietly manipulated providing a great go-to solution in just about any environment. As a bonus, the extra tough outer shell makes them more resilient than standard fidgets for those heavy pressure sensory seekers!
Gel fidgets provide an engaging sensory input that can be slipped into a desk or backpack. The Gel-E-Fidget has a ring to attach to a key chain that reduces the chances of it being tossed or lost. You can attach these to a backpack, handbag, belt loop or purse for quick easy access.
Gel fidgets are noiseless and soothing due to their swirling colors. Though they may appear distracting, the benefit of a hand or lap fidget with its cool sensory input far outweighs any distraction. It can also be used in a sensory corner for calming and organizing.
Soft Finger Play
For your sensory seekers, an item like PushPathz can provide hours of calm and focus. Soft fidgets provide one of the best noise-free fidgets available. Small enough to fit in a handbag or pocket, they can go anywhere and be used as a subtle fidget to warm up the fingers and engage the mind.
Teachers love these as the fidgeting is right where they want it: front and center. Pencil fidgets provide a convenient outlet right on top of pencil, which may help reduce anxiety and improve concentration. No need to go hunting for another fidget when it is built into the pencil design.
Pocket Size Fidgets
These are smaller fidgets that can fit in a pocket or backpack for easy access. Keeping the fingers busy and engaged, these can help calm, engage and focus.
Allowing your kids to fidget can help everyone feel a bit more at ease. You may want to consider a set of teacher friendly fidgets to hand out before test taking, during quiet reading or circle time or for those kids who you know would really benefit. This puts you in control and yet allows your students to function at their best.